Bobby Jameson’s ‘Working!’

Here’s my take on Bobby Jameson’s 1969 album Working! It was originally posted at my first site on September 3, 2007, and I’ve posted it here at Bobby’s request. I’ve made a few minor changes.

A few listens, and one can understand why this album is one for which collectors hunt. As well as being rare, it’s a pretty good country/country rock record.

Three of the tracks are Jameson’s originals. The album opener, “Palo Alto,” is a great song, carrying with it a feel of the work that Glen Campbell was doing with Jimmy Webb’s compositions – “Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman” – around the same time. “Broken Window” is a fairly standard country effort musically, and the lost love metaphor of the lyrics is nothing remarkable; it’s a pretty song, though. The third original, “ ’Bout Being Young,” closes the album, and like the opener, “Palo Alto,” puts the listener in mind – with its subject matter, its vocal and its arrangement – of a Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb collaboration. (From some writers, that would not be a compliment; here at Echoes In The Wind, it is.)

Some of the cover versions that make up the rest of the album fare less well. Jameson’s world-weary voice doesn’t carry nearly enough of the irony necessary to succeed with John Lennon’s “Norwegian Wood.” Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” both are a little spare, not helped by slower tempos than one might consider for the songs. But Jameson seems to at least battle the Dylan songs to draws.

Jameson’s work on “The Weight,” – the reason that I first sought out the record – is good, if not spectacular. Many of the song’s interpreters – including Levon Helm and Rick Danko of The Band in their original version on Music From Big Pink – relate the lyrics’ mystifying and foreboding tales in matter-of-fact voices. Jameson – his voice telling us he is nearly exhausted – adds a new element to the familiar song: The narrator is weary and wants to rest, but there is no one in this surreal town who will ease his burden.

And the rest of the album is fine, if not extraordinary. If I have a quibble, it’s that the tempo never seems to vary from song to song, leaving the record better heard as a series of ten tracks that might work better as entries in a random playlist than as an album heard in sequence. Of the remainder of the covers on the record, the best might be “Gentle On My Mind,” which benefits from a vocal intensity that this time belies the more matter-of-fact approach that Glen Campbell took with the song not that many years before Jameson recorded it.

The other two tracks on the album are “Singing The Blues,” which Guy Mitchell took to No. 1 in 1956, and “Ain’t That Lovin’ You, Baby,” the Jimmy Reed-penned bluesy standard that’s been covered by artists ranging from blues matriarch Etta James and the Everly Brothers to Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan, Sly & The Family Stone and Rod Stewart. Jameson’s version of “Singing The Blues” drags a little bit, but the expressiveness in his voice keeps the track from being a drag itself, and he does a good job with the Jimmy Reed tune.

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